The rematch turned out to be another mismatch Friday at the Missoula Sentinel gym, where the Spartans girls once again looked fully ready to defend.
Three-time State AA champion Missoula Sentinel used a withering defense and a bevy of early, easy buckets to down Billings West 59-47 in a girls’ basketball game.
The second half of the non-conference doubleheader -- Billings West’s boys opened their season with a 66-47 win over the Spartans -- featured the combatants in last year’s AA girls’ title game, which Sentinel won 48-30.
This one ended up closer, but the game was over by halftime.
Both teams are in action again Saturday, with West heading to Big Sky and Sentinel playing host to Billings Senior. The girls start things off Saturday, at noon.
Sentinel girls 59, Billings West 47
“I think we came out and did a good job,” said Sentinel coach Karen Deden, whose club led 38-19 at intermission behind nine points from sophomore guard Shannon Worster. “Made a lot of good decisions, scored defensively, got some easy buckets.
“For the first game I thought we did pretty well.”
Worster was the most dynamic of a youthful and deep Spartans squad. She had three baskets in a 13-2 burst that put Sentinel ahead 19-7 after one quarter; Worster then hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter, and threes from Lexi Seele and Jill Madsen -- the latter off a steal by Worster, with 3:10 left in the first half – made it 34-14.
Worster finished with 13 points while four Spartans – freshmen Kylie Frohlich and Jordyn Schweyen and seniors Haley Rogers and Steele – added either eight or nine.
Morningrose Tobey scored nine points after halftime to finish with 11 for the Golden Bears. Jessi Zyroff added 10 points, seven after intermission.
There were a lot of new faces -- “A majority of their team graduated, like us,” Deden said -- but Sentinel made hay with its early pressure.
Worster added five steals and matched Rogers with four assists. Frohlich’s eight boards helped Sentinel win the rebounding battle. Senior center Brian Finbraaten added six points and seven rebounds, showing nice touch inside.
“She did good,” Deden said. “She’s strong. She did a lot during the offseason to get stronger. She has a nice shot, finishing around the basket.
“They had us in the size department, but I thought we did a good job of making up for that.”
Sophomore Brittany Delridge also had five steals for Sentinel, which shot 50 percent through three quarters and led 53-36.
Billings West 66, Sentinel boys 47
The Spartans started strong, getting six first-quarter points from Zaccheus Darko-Kellly to lead 15-14. A late surge, helped by five points from Will Mytty, drew Sentinel to 29-24 at half.
From there West dominated on the glass and around the basket, taking control with a 17-1 run in the third quarter.
The pivotal surge came after West’s Trever Spoja drew a technical for slapping the Sentinel backboard while a layup went through. Mitch Reynolds hit one of two free throws for a 31-30 Spartan lead at the 6:52 mark.
Five minutes later West led 47-32. Kameron Rauch, who came off the bench to collected nine points and 10 rebounds, highlighted the surge with two put-backs. Dan Betcher threw down a dunk at the 3:20 mark, making it 40-31.
Bryson Deming’s 3-pointer, off a Betcher offensive rebound, made it a 15-point game.
Sentinel got the gap down to 12 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t find the range against the Bears’ tall timber.
Spoja hit three 3-pointers, blocked two shots, made three steals and finished with 15 points. Betcher added 12 points. Jared Samuelson, a Montana Grizzly basketball recruit, added seven points and five rebounds.
“That’s one of the best teams in the state, right there,” Sentinel coach Jay Jagelski said of West. “They’ve got guys who’ll step up. If one person is having an off night another guy will step up.
“They’ve got some horses, and they’ve got some shooters, but our kids hung in there.”
Darko-Kelly led the Spartans with 11 points, to go with three steals and six rebounds. Jeff Krstulich added seven points and eight boards.
“It’s our first game obviously, just like it’s theirs,” Jagelski said. “One thing is we’ve got a lot of young kids and that was their very first varsity experience. We had them on the ropes.
“We’ve just got to make a few adjustments, and we’re going to get better. That’s the main thing about this.”